Game 8 on Monday at the FIDE 2018 World Chess Championship Match in London saw a new opening being played, but it was yet another draw. The match is now tied at 4 points apiece. By drawing 8 consecutive games, the match between Magnus Carlsen and challenger Fabiano Caruana has tied the record for the most consecutive draws to a World Championship Match. The record was held by Garry Kasparov and Vishwanathan Anand who in 1995 started off their match with 8 draws in New York.
The opening move was made by Demis Hassabis, who is the founder of the Artificial Intelligence company Deep Mind, which was acquired by Google. Deep Mind is known for the creation of the popular Alpha Zero, the very powerful Artificial Intelligence programme that easily beat Stockfish in a match and first to beat a human at the game of Go.
AI learning is an interesting subject on its own and for the first time in decades, strides were made by this milestone achievement.
This game was a fighting draw and probably the first game in the match where the player with the white pieces had serious winning chances. Caruana has not varied from the King’s Pawn Opening so far in his games as white. Until the eighth game all the openings with Caruana as white were the Sicilian Rosssolimo variation, which sees the light-squared bishop venturing out to attack Black’s Queen knight via b5.
Game 8 saw an Open Sicilian being played for the very first time in the match with the game following the Sveshnikov or Pelikan line of the Sicilian Defence. White tied down things on the Queenside with a flank pawn advance to the the dark square a5 which was then followed up by a knight and a white pawn sitting on the d5 square.
On the other hand Carlsen had played an ambitious pawn advance g5 that would open up his Kingside and render his King vulnerable. In game 8, Caruana moved quite fast in the opening which was perhaps indicative of his preparation and confidence earlier on in the game. Carlsen on the other hand consumed much more time on the clock.
There was a real danger for Carlsen in the game shortly after Caruana sacrificed his pawn via c5. However, in the following moves, Caruana missed a real opportunity when instead of retreating his knight from b6 to a more centralised square, c4, he played the rather meek h3. This gave Carlsen more than enough time to bolster his defences by first playing his queen to e8 and then g6, where he got the breathing space he so much needed. This was followed by a flurry of exchanges taking all the venom out of the position and converting into an ending with oppositely coloured bishops that offered no winning chances for either player. Draw was then agreed by both players after 38 moves.
It was a close call for Carlsen, who was visibly relieved at the post game press conference. However, Caruana expressed his disappointment at not being able to convert his position into a win. Caruana said he had not been able to bed down the best continuation given his advantage, much to the relief of anxious Carlsen fans. Carlsen was definitely on the ropes in this game, but the continuation required some precision and Caruana opted for a safer but less effective plan.
Tuesday is a rest day with the match resuming on Wednesday. In the remaining 4 games, both players will have two games with white and two games with black.
Here is game 8:
A video of the game 8:
Here’s an analysis of the critical moment in Game 8 by Daniel King
Press conference for Game 8: